Paleoecology (also spelled palaeoecology) is the study of interactions between organisms and/or interactions between organisms and their environments across geologic timescales. As a discipline, paleoecology interacts with, depends on and informs a variety of fields including paleontology, ecology, climatology and biology.
Paleoecology emerged from the field of paleontology in the 1950s, though paleontologists have conducted paleoecological studies since the creation of paleontology in the 1700s and 1800s. Combining the investigative approach of searching for fossils with the theoretical approach of Charles Darwin and Alexander von Humboldt, paleoecology began as paleontologists began examining both the ancient organisms they discovered and the reconstructed environments in which they lived. Visual depictions of past marine and terrestrial communities has been considered an early form of paleoecology.
While the functions and relationships of fossil organisms may not be observed directly (as in ecology), scientists can describe and analyze both individuals and communities over time. To do so, paleoecologists make the following assumptions:
The aim of paleoecology is to build the most detailed model possible of the life environment of previously living organisms found today as fossils. The process of reconstructing past environments requires the use of archives (e.g., sediment sequences), proxies (e.g., the micro or mega-fossils and other sediment characteristics that provide the evidence of the biota and the physical environment), and chronology (e.g., obtaining absolute (or relative) dating of events in the archive). Such reconstruction takes into consideration complex interactions among environmental factors such as temperatures, food supplies, and degree of solar illumination. Often much of this information is lost or distorted by the fossilization process or diagenesis of the enclosing sediments, making interpretation difficult.
Some other proxies for reconstructing past environments include charcoal and pollen, which synthesize fire and vegetation data, respectively. Both of these alternates can be found in lakes and peat settings, and can provide moderate to high resolution information. These are well studied methods often utilized in the paleoecological field.
The environmental complexity factor is normally tackled through statistical analysis of the available numerical data (quantitative paleontology or paleostatistics), while the study of post-mortem processes is known as the field of taphonomy.
Much of the original paleoecological research has focused on the last two million years (the Quaternary period), because older environments are less well represented in the fossil timeline of evolution. Indeed, many studies concentrate on the Holocene epoch (the last 11,500 years), or the last glacial stage of the Pleistocene epoch (the Wisconsin/Weichsel/Devensian/Würm glaciation of the ice age, from 50,000 to 11,500 years ago). Such studies are useful for understanding the dynamics of ecosystem change and for reconstructing pre-industrialization ecosystems.
Paleoecological studies are used to inform conservation, management and restoration efforts. In particular, fire-focused paleoecology is an informative field of study to land managers seeking to restore ecosystem fire regimes.
Albertadromeus is an extinct genus of orodromine parksosaurid dinosaur known from the upper part of the Late Cretaceous Oldman Formation (middle Campanian stage) of Alberta, Canada. It contains a single species, Albertadromeus syntarsus.Cedrorestes
Cedrorestes is a genus of iguanodontian dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Utah. It is based on an incomplete skeleton which was found in the Barremian-age Yellow Cat Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation.Dysganus
Dysganus (dis-GANN-us) (meaning "rough enamel") is a dubious genus of ceratopsian dinosaur from the Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous. Its fossil teeth were discovered by Edward Drinker Cope in the Judith River Formation in Montana.Elrhazosaurus
Elrhazosaurus is a genus of basal iguanodontian dinosaur, known from isolated bones found in Lower Cretaceous rocks of Niger. These bones were initially thought to belong to a species of the related dryosaurid Valdosaurus, but have since been reclassified.Gojirasaurus
Gojirasaurus (meaning "Godzilla Lizard") is a dubious genus of coelophysoid theropod dinosaur named after the giant monster movie character Gojira (the Japanese name for the monster Godzilla).Isisaurus
Isisaurus (named after the Indian Statistical Institute) is a genus of dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous Period. Isisaurus was a sauropod (specifically a titanosaur), which lived in what is now India.Ixalerpeton
Ixalerpeton (meaning "leaping reptile") is a genus of small, bipedal dinosauromorphs in the lagerpetid family, containing one species, I. polesinensis. It lived in the Late Triassic of Brazil alongside the sauropodomorph dinosaur Buriolestes.Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology is a bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal that was established in 1980 by Jiri Zidek (University of Oklahoma). It covers all aspects of vertebrate paleontology, including vertebrate origins, evolution, functional morphology, taxonomy, biostratigraphy, paleoecology, paleobiogeography, and paleoanthropology. The journal is published by Taylor & Francis on behalf of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. According to the Journal Citation Reports, the journal has a 2017 impact factor of 2.190.Magnirostris
Magnirostris, from the Latin magnus "large" and rostrum "beak", is the name given to a genus of dinosaur from the upper Campanian stage in the Upper Cretaceous. It was a ceratopsian which lived in Inner Mongolia in China. It is distinguished from other protoceratopsids by its large beak (hence the name) and incipient orbital horn cores.Manidens
Manidens is a genus of heterodontosaurid dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of Patagonia. Fossils have been found in the Cañadón Asfalto Formation in Chubut Province, Argentina, dating to the Bajocian.Microhadrosaurus
Microhadrosaurus (meaning "small sturdy lizard" in Greek) is a genus of hadrosaurid dinosaur from the Campanian or Maastrichtian-age Upper Cretaceous Yuanpu Formation (also known as the Nanxiong Formation) of Guangdong, China. Although its name identifies it as a small hadrosaur, it is based on juvenile remains, and the size of the adult hadrosaur is unknown.Moabosaurus
Moabosaurus (meaning "Moab reptile") is a genus of turiasaurian sauropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation of Utah, United States.Odontochelys
Odontochelys semitestacea (meaning "toothed turtle with a half-shell") is a Late Triassic relative of turtles. Before Pappochelys was discovered and Eunotosaurus was redescribed, Odontochelys was considered the oldest undisputed member of Pantestudines (i.e. a stem-turtle). It is the only known species in the genus Odontochelys and the family Odontochelyidae.Orodrominae
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Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology ("Palaeo3") is a peer-reviewed scientific journal publishing multidisciplinary studies and comprehensive reviews in the field of palaeoenvironmental geology. The journal is edited by D. J. Bottjer, T. Corrège, A. P. Kershaw, and F. Surlyk. It was established in 1965 and is currently published by Elsevier.Paludititan
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Sanjuansaurus ("San Juan Province lizard") is a genus of herrerasaurid dinosaur from the Late Triassic (Carnian) Cancha de Bochas and La Peña Members of the Ischigualasto Formation of the Ischigualasto-Villa Unión Basin in northwestern Argentina.